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Soul Music Tracks from the Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson Collection: "I Want You" and "Musical Massage"
I listen to many interesting things in my job, and I love it. As an AV cataloger at NYPL (Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound), I have listened to many archival recordings at the library for the past 8 years. Some of my highlights:
- Sound effects tapes from plays in the New York Shakespeare Festival collection
- Choral performances (more on that later...)
- Radio programs from WNYC (Around New York, Spinning On Air, New Sounds, Music for the Connoisseur, etc.)
- Interviews of Hollywood and Broadway stars for Brooke Hayward's memoir Haywire, and most recently...
- Bach master classes taught by Rosalyn Tureck at the first Bach Tureck Institute Symposium (1983)
But my favorite audio gems nowadays are from the Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson collection; the rarer the better!
An excerpt from the biographical/historical notes of the finding aid of Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson papers, 1975-1978:
"Although he was a multifaceted arranger, composer, conductor, pianist, and educator, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004) had a brief, but significant involvement with popular music, as an arranger for Motown recording artists in general, and Marvin Gaye in particular. Named after the Afro-British composer and conductor, Samuel Coleridge Taylor, Perkinson was born in in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and moved to New York as a child. He attended the High School of Music and Art, New York University, and the Manhattan School of Music. Perkinson's professional accomplishments would span a remarkably wide range of fields, including classical music, jazz, popular music, dance, film soundtracks, scores for television, and music education."
One of my all-time favorite aspects of the job is discovering the evolution of a Broadway musical, a play, a song, and in this case, movie/television music tracks and soul music tracks of the 1970s. These tracks are not polished. They are many takes upon recording takes, rehearsals gone awry, rare tidbits that never make it to finished commercial recordings. Some takes are renamed, reassigned to different projects and performers, and reworked completely.
One noteworthy example of this is the audition demo tape and the rough instrumental tracks of Marvin Gaye's 1976 album I Want You, composed by Leon Ware and Arthur "T-Boy" Ross, produced by Leon Ware and Marvin Gaye, with orchestral arrangements by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson.
So, as the story goes, Leon Ware was writing material for his own second album for Motown, which was eventually called Musical Massage. (More on Musical Massage later) After penning the songs, Ware and "T-Boy" Ross (who was also Diana Ross's brother), decided to make an audition demo tape of the songs to send to Berry Gordy. While I was listening to the copy of the music demos "I Want You," "All the Way Around," "By Loving You" and "Me and My Life", I realized this was the one of the few copies that helped to influence Gordy to take a chance on the material... by giving the songs to Marvin Gaye.
Personally, even though the audition tracks were rough and unpolished, as most audition demos tend to be, they were not that bad. I couldn't tell whether if Leon Ware or "T-Boy" Ross sang the lead vocals, but pleasant enough. (I put down "T-Boy" as the lead in the catalog record.) The backup singers were fabulous!
After listening to the rehearsals, rough mixes and instrumental tracks of the I Want You 1975 recording sessions, I will say that Marvin Gaye (along with Ross and Ware) is a consummate perfectionist in laying quality music down. Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson's arrangements of the songs adds incredible sensuality, soulfulness, yearning, and magnetism.
After completing the phenonmonal 1976 hit album I Want You, Leon Ware continued on his second solo Motown album Musical Massage. According to Discogs.com, the album was originally issued under the Gordy label [Gordy 976S1] in September 1976. Some discographies note the album was scheduled for release on Motown 876, then it changed to Gordy. It was also issued in the U.K. as Motown STML 12050 in February 1977. No singles were issued from the album. However, the album was eventually remastered and reissued by Motown on September 29, 2003.
Hands down, Leon Ware is a genius songwriter and producer. And he has a fabulous voice. Why did it take so long for the public to know about this album?!
Since NYPL doesn't have the actual commercial release of Musical Massage in the catalog (sob!), it was really cool to discover the music from the album in steps:
- Rehearsal piano and vocal excerpts: Leon Ware is singing and playing piano, and it sounds like Ware is still writing the songs as he is playing. Featured tracks are "Strange Love" (it eventually became the instrumental part of "Feel My Love Inside" from the I Want You album), "Turn Out the Lights" and "Journey Into You."
- Orchestral selections final mix: music arranged by C.-T. Perkinson. Featured tracks: "Turn Out the Lights," "Strange Love", "I Wanna Be Where You Are" and "Journey Into You."
- Instrumental track demos ; Musical massage (1975): These music tracks are unfinished recording cuts for the 1976 album Musical Massage. It is a close as we can get to the real thing, people...
In my next blog about the Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson collection, I'll talk about the film and television music soundtracks Perkinson has worked on.
Until next time!
The audio collection is now available in the catalog.
The biography of Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004) is found in the finding aid.
Another great site about Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson is AfriClassical.
Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coleridge-Taylor_Perkinson